Florida Civil Rights Act Prohibits Pregnancy Discrimination, Florida Supreme Court Rules

Apr 23, 2014

Florida Employment Lawyer, Florida Employment Law

By Maria Elena Abate, Shareholder
Colodny Fass& Webb


In a 6-1 ruling on April 17, 2014, Florida’s Supreme Court confirmed that the sex discrimination provision of the Florida Civil Rights Act (“FRCA”) also prevents employers from discriminating based on the condition of pregnancy.

In its ruling, the Florida Supreme Court noted the liberal legislative intent of the FCRA, explaining that pregnancy is a natural condition and primary characteristic unique to the female gender.  The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status,” but mentions nothing about pregnancy.

To view the ruling, click here.

The case emanated from a conflict between two District Court of Appeal rulings–one indicating that pregnancy is covered under the 1992 law–another holding that it is not.

In his dissent, Chief Justice Ricky Polston noted that the Florida Legislature has been aware of the discrepancy, but has not yet acted to amend the law accordingly.  Meanwhile, identical legislation seeking to rectify the problem is stalled in both the Florida Senate and House of Representatives (CS/SB 220 and CS/HB 105). 

The legislation would specifically permit a state cause of action for pregnancy discrimination claims, giving plaintiffs more time to file suit than under federal law.  After the conclusion of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint  investigation and  issuance of a “right-to-sue” letter, a plaintiff would have 90 days to file an action in federal court.  Plaintiffs bringing pregnancy discrimination cases in state court would have up to a year to file after a determination of reasonable cause by the Florida Commission on Human Relations.  Also, under the provisions of the proposal, plaintiffs filing against a small-sized employer could be able to recoup greater punitive damages in state court, due to the difference in caps on punitive damages in state and federal court.



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